SMC Hosts Alumnae “Welcome Home” Tailgate
Emilie Kefalas | Sunday, September 7, 2014
The Saint Mary’s Alumnae Association Board concluded their week-long bi-annual meeting with the traditional Alumnae “Welcome Home” Tailgate on the avenue prior to the Notre Dame-Michigan game Saturday afternoon.
President of the Alumnae Association Board of Directors Kelly Walsh, class of 2001, said the tailgate came out of the community work of several members of the board.
“It has been an annual event that during our annual meeting, we meet for a fall tailgate,” she said. “It’s free of charge. We underwrite it in conjunction with help from Sodexo. We typically expect about 100 or so [alumnae]. We just welcome alumnae back to campus. It’s a way to engage with alumnae from around the country.”
The board operates the “Success After Saint Mary’s” event for all students during its time on-campus, providing assistance and advice for career fairs and self-promotional speeches, Walsh said.
“In the fall we try to connect with students on campus,” she said. “We do the ‘Success After Saint Mary’s’ [event]. We had 89 students. It was a great meeting, a lot of engaged alumnae, a lot of great ideas to keep it active in the future.”
Welsh said she credits her educational experience at Saint Mary’s as instrumental to both her role at CNA Insurance and in her life.
“I love the college,” she said. “I feel like it plays such an instrumental part in who I am today in preparing you for the world outside of Saint Mary’s. It’s a better place when you have more confident Saint Mary’s women out there.”
Board secretary Kelly Cook Lewis said she was happy to be back on campus.
“The meetings were wonderful,” she said. “We love being back on campus. We love to work. It’s a working board. We love being aligned with the college … This is kind of wrapping it up in a fun fashion to not only incorporate alumnae but also current students.”
Lewis said it is important for students to maintain their relationships with current classmates and alumnae both now and beyond graduation.
A class of 1997 business major, Lewis said she resides in Maryland but tries to visit Saint Mary’s several times a year.
“I make it out here for two board meetings, but I just make it out here in addition to that, because I just can’t get enough,” she said. “Coming in on the Avenue, it just makes me happy. It’s just so exciting.”
Alumna MaryJane Klein, a nursing student of the class of 1982, said she continues to come to the event because of the unique interaction and connection with other alumnae and current students.
“It makes you really proud to be a Saint Mary’s grad because the women you see — both the current students and the past students — are just so friendly and welcoming and intelligent,” she said. “It’s fun to talk to people, and it’s fun to see if you can recognize anybody.”
Klein said this visit was especially memorable since she had the opportunity to speak with several current students about their Saint Mary’s experiences.
“I got to talk to some current students, and I was so proud of how well-spoken, articulate and friendly they were,” she said. “It makes me very proud to be an alumnae. This is the kind of alumnae that Saint Mary’s produces. It makes me very proud of my school. That’s what it meant to come back as alumnae.”
Saint Mary’s only a capella group Bellacapella performed at the tailgate, singing favorites such as “I Love Rock n’ Roll” and the Notre Dame fight song, senior Nia Parillo said.
“We have sung there for the past couple of years, and we absolutely love it,” Parillo said. “I was so excited when Claire Stewart, our president and the one that was contacted, told me that we were asked to sing at the alumnae tailgate.
“We always feel so welcomed, and we get a great response from the audience when we sing there. My favorite part is when we sing the ‘Belles of Saint Mary’s’ for the alumnae. Some start to cry, others can’t stop smiling and then we have those who join us in song. It really brings the Saint Mary’s community together and the ‘once a Belle, always a Belle’ saying alive.”
Parillo said she loves every opportunity she gets to talk with alumnae, especially since she will soon join the club when she graduates in May.
“We compare experiences and update them on some changes to the college,” she said. “But for me, I always loved asking what they majored in as an undergrad. Being able to meet successful Saint Mary’s women is so encouraging. I love hearing about their paths up to and after Saint Mary’s.”
Parillo said she also believes that Saint Mary’s forms students into strong and educated women.
“SMC pushes us past what we think our potential is,” she said. “I think because of that, alumnae want to give back to the college and help the current and future Belles to have the same experience and growth.”
The Saint Mary’s connection holds significance as a result of the shared experiences between all alumnae and current students, Parillo said.
“There is a level of understanding and connection even between generations,” she said. “Alumnae give me the hope and energy to know that Saint Mary’s will help me get to where I want to be. Also, it’s important because alumnae really help on campus. They are generous enough to donate money to the College that helps the current and future Belles.”